Nature Seychelles will in June this year offer a six week training course in coral reef restoration. Under the Reef Rescuers Project, Nature Seychelles has worked on restoring degraded coral reefs using experts and specialists in marine science. The work was funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with added financial support by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The coral reef restoration project began in 2010 and was implemented on Praslin, Mahe and Cousin Island Special Reserve.
The Reef Rescuers Project uses the ‘coral gardening’ method to restore corals that have been negatively impacted by changing climatic, and therefore sea conditions. In the Seychelles, as with many countries in the region, coral bleaching and ocean warming are a threat to marine ecosystems and to the livelihoods of coastal people.
In coral gardening, as used by the reef rescue team, fragments of corals are reared in underwater nurseries then transplanted to degraded reef. In the years that the scientists have been working on reef restoration, they have come up with best practices and developed new techniques for large scale coral reef restoration. The reef rescue training program has been created from the experience of the reef rescue team.
The training program will consist of academic and practical training based on the reef gardening concept and covering how to build underwater nurseries and transplant corals to a degraded site. The course is ideal for those working in marine conservation with basic knowledge in reef ecology and the scientific method. Those who apply for the course also need to have a SCUBA diving certificate. There are only 8 places open to applicants.
The Reef Rescue Training Program was designed and will be run by Dr Sarah Frais-Torres and Dr Phanor Montoya-Maya. Sarah, a marine ecologist and biological oceanographer, is the coordinator of the Reef Rescuers Project. Sarah’s research interests include marine biodiversity, conservation biology, climate change effects on marine ecosystems, coral reef and mangrove ecosystem resilience, and developing novel low cost hi-tech ocean sensors.
Phanor is a marine biologist specializing in coral reef ecology and reef connectivity. His academic background is in biology, ichthyology and marine biology. Phanor first joined the reef rescue team in 2014 when he volunteered as a scientific diver for six months and was then appointed technical and scientific officer. Phanor has also worked as a coral specialist for the National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition to Mozambique and as a research assistant at the Oceanographic Research Institute in South Africa.